Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC
On the face of it, the GLB 35 is just another hot Mercedes SUV. Until you begin to delve a little deeper. Where else on the market can you get a crossover like this with as much as 300hp and 7 seats? It's a rare combination.
All the stats here look promising. Thanks to use of the same 306hp turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine found in the A 35 hot hatch, performance is way above what you'd otherwise expect in this family class of car, 62mph dispatched in just 5.2 seconds, only half a second slower than the A 35. The engine is mated to an 8 speed dual clutch automatic gearbox and the brand's 4MATIC four-wheel-drive system, which can vary its torque split from 100% front wheel drive to a 50-50 power split front-to-rear. Quite a lot of work's gone in to change the suspension, which has been stiffened and standard adaptive damping added. The speed sensitive steering is also bespoke and there are larger AMG brakes.
Obviously, this top GLB isn't as fun to throw about as an A 35 but there's plenty of traction and body roll is well controlled, making possible ridiculously quick point-to-point journey times on twisting country roads. As we've noticed in other models, this engine has a lovely muted growl, with an emotive burble from the exhausts on the over-run, plus the dual clutch gearbox clicks from ratio to ratio with enthusiasm. Buyers get much the same 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system as you'd find in the AMG-GT sportscar, with "Slippery", "Comfort", "Sport", "Sport +" and "Individual" settings. Further driving modes are linked to the AMG DYNAMICS agility control, which means that the handling characteristics can be even more closely matched with different requirements and driving conditions.
You won't make quite the same pavement statement here that you would with a well specified A 35 or GLA 35 model, but this GLB 35 is nonetheless a car with its own potent blend of serious visual intent. You get bespoke 20-inch AMG alloy wheels and a body kit including a deep front splitter, a prominent tailgate spoiler and twin-exit exhausts set into a bespoke bumper. This GLB was also the first '35'-series model to get the distinctive Panamericana AMG grille that references the brand's 1950s racing cars.
Inside, there's a bespoke AMG cabin with a grippy 3-spoke multifunction wheel and metal finished pedals. The sports seats are upholstered in black ARTICO man-made leather with DINAMICA microfibre trimming and red-double topstitching - and there are red seat belts too. As usual with a GLB, there's a 10.25-inch MBUX centre stack touchscreen media screen. For this top variant, the 10.25-inch digital instrument display gets an extra particularly striking 'Supersport' mode with a central, round rev counter and bargraph-style driver information readouts. It's one of three AMG-specific display styles - the other two are 'Classic' and 'Sporty'. The middle row has reasonable room for a couple of adults and moving further back, this is the first compact Mercedes AMG model to be available with a third seating row, accessed via an EASY ENTRY feature. As for luggage space, most the time you will be driving with the 3rd row seats folded into the floor, at which point there's a 565-litre boot.
You'd choose the GLB 35 because you needed seven seats in an uber-fast family SUV. And if you did, you'd probably feel pretty smug because there's nothing else quite like it on the market. Of course, if you don't need three seating rows, there are lots of other options. But there's a lot to be said for cabin flexibility.
So the GLB 35 has a unique selling point over its A 35 hot hatch donor car. Which is more than can be said for the Stuttgart brand's other relatively compact fast SUV at this price point, the GLA 35. This GLB is of course heavier, higher and longer than both an A 35 and a GLA 35 - but you get a lot in return for those downsides. As a second performance-driven conveyance for an exceptionally well heeled family, this top GLB is very desirable indeed.Click here to find out more about our Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC range
Jaguar F-Type Coupe
Jaguar describes this improved F-TYPE Coupe as the most capable and involving car it's ever built. It's sleeker, faster and classier, cementing the Coventry brand's reputation as an ever more credible rival to Porsche, reviving memories of some of the company's legendary classic coupes. It handles. It goes. And it delivers.
Jaguar has now pensioned off its 3.0-litre supercharged V6, but instead, offers F-TYPE buyers who don't want the entry-level 2.0-litre four cylinder 300PS unit a new 450PS version of its classic supercharged V8. This fiery powerplant develops a prodigious 580Nm of torque from just 2,500rpm. If that's not enough, the F-TYPE R continues at the top of the range with a 575PS version of the same V8. In terms of drive formats, the four cylinder model comes only with rear wheel drive; the 450PS V8 can be ordered with either rear wheel drive or AWD; and the F-TYPE R comes only with AWD. Got all that? I'll be asking questions later.
Personally, I usually like my automotive sound effects to come from the engine rather than, as here, the tailpipes at the back but even I have to admit that this car hums an addictive tune. Whichever variant you choose, performance is striking. Even the feeblest 300PS model makes 60mph from rest in just 5.7s, while the 450PS V8 models make 60mph in just 4.4s on the way to 177mph. Finally, the F-TYPE R covers off that sprint in just 3.5s en route to 186mph. Across the range, you get an all-aluminium chassis, double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link-suspended rear.
All F-TYPES feature auto gearboxes (the manual previously available in the four cylinder car has been discontinued). Changes to the Quickshift auto transmissions in both the F-TYPE R and the 450PS V8 models promise a more engaging driving experience. The F-TYPE R specifically offers even faster, crisper gear changes when the driver commands shifts manually via the steering wheel-mounted paddles or the SportShift gear selector. Both upshifts and downshifts are more immediate and give an even more connected and responsive feel.
The visual changes made to this improved model are significant, centring mostly on a front end now embellished by super-slim pixel LED headlights that blend into the 'liquid metal' surfacing' of the restyled clamshell bonnet. There's also a new front bumper and a subtly enlarged grille that aim to deliver more visual impact and presence. And the slender rear lights have been revised too, featuring an LED chicane signature inspired by the Jaguar I-PACE. We still think that visually, the F-TYPE Coupe bodyshape works really well, with its short wheelbase, power-packed set of rear haunches and elegant roof line. It manages to make the Porsche Cayman seem rather hall-of-mirrors in its proportioning and while it's not as instantly beautiful as an Aston Martin Vantage, it looks as if it would thoroughly work the Vantage over in a bar fight.
The interior hasn't changed much, continuing to combine traditional Jaguar craftsmanship with rich, contemporary materials such as Windsor Leather and satin-finish Noble Chrome. Beautiful details include monogram stitch patterns in the seats and door trims, Jaguar Leaper motifs in the headrests, and subtle 'Jaguar Est.1935' markings on the centre console finisher, glovebox release button surround, and seatbelt guides. The boot remains relatively big, giving the F-TYPE Coupe genuine GT potential. You'll get 315-litres in up to the parcel shelf and 407-litres to the window line. A 72-litre fuel tank gives a realistic cruising range of over 340 miles.
As before, the F-TYPE Coupe takes all that was great about the Convertible version and builds on it with a stiffer chassis and a more affordable asking price. The result is a very special car indeed, especially in this improved form. Even if you can only stretch to a four cylinder version. After all, compared to a rival Porsche 718 Cayman S, Jaguar has brought us a machine that's arguably better looking, unarguably better equipped, more powerful and endowed with a greater sense of occasion, inside and out.
While it won't match the Porsche's delicacy of response at the limit, the F-TYPE Coupe looks as if it's got its chief competitor's measure in enough areas that count to really give the German brand something to worry about.Click here to find out more about our Jaguar F-Type Coupe range
Audi RS Q8
Audi pushes on into six-figure territory with this RS Q8, targeted at those who come in search of the ultimate high performance luxury SUV. Its twin turbo V8 puts out 600PS, so this car is astonishingly rapid, but perhaps what's even more impressive if the way it can transmit its torque to the tarmac along a twisting road. Politically incorrect the RS Q8 may be, but it's still very desirable indeed.
Let's start with that 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 petrol engine, which here develops 600PS, a little more than it does in the Porsche Cayenne Coupe Turbo and a little less than it does in the Lamborghini Urus. It's enough to somehow convey this huge 2.3-tonne SUV from rest to 62mph in just 3.8s and you'll need only around 10 seconds more to get to 125mph, on the way to a maximum (where unrestricted and only for the very brave) of 190mph. Drive is delivered via an 8-speed tipronic auto gearbox to a quattro 4WD system that can apportion up to 80% of torque to the rear (though 40:60-split front-to-rear is its usual setting) and to manage it all, there's an active torque vectoring limited slip differential.
Lots more has also gone on to help handle all that power. You get a wider track (10mm more at the front and 5mm more at the rear) for a squater stance - and there are bigger brakes of course. And revised damper rates for the adaptive air suspension. Standard or optional depending on trim are two further features: a 48V anti-roll system and a four-wheel steer set-up that reduces cornering understeer and promotes the kind of turning ability you'd think would be impossible for a car of this size. There's the usual drive mode system and your favourite blend of attributes can be stored and summoned by pushing the provided RS button on the steering wheel which has two settings; RS1 (where perhaps you'd store your more laid-back settings) and RS2 (for when you want to select a more aggressive demeanour).
There's plenty of pavement theatre here, as you'd expect from a coupe-style large sporting SUV, especially one this powerful. Specific touches here include RS bumpers, RS widened wheel arches, RS dual-branch tailpipes and an RS Manhattan grey front spoiler lip and rear diffuser insert. Plus the imposing octagonal single frame front grille gets a Manhattan grey surround. HD matrix LED headlights flank the grille and at the back, there's the full-width light strip which is characteristic of all high-end Audi models. Depending on the spec level you choose, the wheels are either 22 or 23-inches in size.
At the wheel, the interior highlight lies with Audi's superb winged Super Sports seats, which are trimmed with diamond-stitched Valcona leather upholstery. As usual in a large luxury Audi, the centre part of the fascia is made up of two large touchscreens with haptic and acoustic feedback. The upper display, which is integrated in a large high-gloss black bezel, is almost invisible when switched off and is used to control the infotainment and navigation systems. You'll use the lower display for managing the heating and air conditioning functions, as well as convenience features and text input (which can be done with your fingertips). As you'd expect, the Audi Virtual Cockpit screen for the instrument binnacle is standard and the top variant gets a head-up display too.
Unlike the SUV this model is based on, the Q7, this design can't offer a third seating row, but Audi insists that there's ample room for three people across the back seat, pointing out that the interior space exceeds that of the direct competitors in almost all relevant dimensions. The 'rear bench seat plus' package is standard, which means that the rear seat can slide and recline. The luggage compartment holds 605-litres, which increases to 1,755-litres with the rear backrests folded down. Two golf bags can easily fit in diagonally.
It's hard not to admire what this RS Q8 can do. It would be astonishingly quick on race track and fantastically fleet point-to-point on a twisting country road. You could even take it off road - the air suspension raises the whole car by 50mm for greater ground clearance on rough tracks. And towing will be straightforward too.
Given this six-figure asking price, I was a bit disappointed that key driving aids like four-wheel steering and the 48V anti-roll system don't come as standard; you'll need these to be able to experience everything this RS Q8 can really do. But when fully kitted out, this car can give you almost everything you get in a Lamborghini Urus for £40,000 to £50,000 less. Which in turn, makes it very special indeed.Click here to find out more about our Audi RS Q8 range